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India asks WhatsApp to withdraw new privacy policy, answer 14 questions

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India has asked WhatsApp to withdraw its new privacy policy, saying the Facebook-owned messaging platform’s proposed changes “make invasive and precise inferences about users”.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology asked WhatsApp to clarify issues related to its “privacy and data transfer and sharing policies, and general business practices” within seven days. In an email addressed to WhatsApp’s global head Will Cathcart on Monday, the ministry said the proposed policy changes “will have a disproportionate impact on the Indian citizens.” India is WhatsApp’s largest user base, with over 400 million users.

It asked WhatsApp to answer 14 questions related to the proposed update.

WhatsApp deferred introducing the policy from February 8 to May 15 after facing backlash, saying the update does not change data sharing with Facebook with regard to personal conversations or other profile information. It said the policy changes only address business chats in the event a user converses with a company’s customer service platform through WhatsApp. However, concerns remain, and several users are still opting out of the service.

READ MORE: WhatsApp defers privacy terms for three months but Signal still on top

“These changes enable WhatsApp, and other Facebook companies, to make invasive and precise inferences about users which may not be reasonably foreseen or expected by users in the ordinary course of accessing these services,” said the ministry.

“These changes notify users that WhatsApp will collect highly invasive and granular metadata, such as time, frequency and duration of interactions, group names, payments and transaction data, online status, location indicators, as well as any messages shared by users with business accounts…Whether this will enable better provision of services to users or not is beside the point, the issue is the impact it has on informational privacy, data security and user choice.”

ALSO READ: What’s your problem? Delete WhatsApp if you feel it will imperil data: HC

The ministry has sought details of WhatsApp’s services in India, details of permissions and consent required by different versions of the app (WhatsApp has personal and business versions), what is the nature of profiling of Indian citizens through WhatsApp, if they profile them, on which server is the data of Indian users transmitted and hosted, and whether there is a difference in the company’s privacy policy in India and other countries.

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